The diary scare

I had my own codes to hide names of girls. Saroja used to be SJ and Kalanidhi, KLN.

After a four-day camp last year, a first for her without her parents’ presence, Maya, my 10-year-old granddaughter told me she had maintained a ‘journal’ and showed it to me. I told her, diaries are highly personal and should not be shown to others, including ‘thatha’.

She said it was a journal of daily activities as suggested by her teacher and not a diary and that she has been maintaining one for some years. I explained that it would soon start containing her feelings, which are best kept to herself. I told her it was a very good habit and that I used to maintain one myself from age 14 to 18, but discontinued it later. I didn’t tell her the reason, however.

I used to express my adolescent feelings in a diary. For instance, a girl’s smile or a playful retort or just seeking guide-books/class notes to copy or an odd occasion when 3-4 of us boys went for a picture with a girl (I recall Maya Bazaar in 1957) found a place in my diary.

The ‘diary’ was made annually out of foolscap papers cut to 1/8 size by me, stitched with a thread and placed in the plastic/rexine cover of a discarded diary. I used to keep it hidden from the dozen-plus children in our joint family, but more so from my eldest brother (older by five years), who was the most curious of all.

My elder brother had once written “catched the train” in his diary, which the eldest had stealthily seen and inadvertently mentioned in a conversation. Offended at not only his diary being read, but also at a fault being found with his English, he discontinued the diary thereafter. I had my own codes to hide names of girls, but coming from a boy of 14 in 1955, how good could they be without  modern gadgets, Google or army service!

Saroja used to be SJ and Kalanidhi used to be KLN. In 1958, when I was away on an NCC Camp for 10 days, I had forgotten to carry it and ‘the curious one’ laid his hands on it and read through. The day after my return, he foolishly taunted me if I was going to meet SJ. We had a roaring fight, which led me to take out and destroy all my diaries. And, with that ended my diary keeping!

It was 41 years later that I would read about the abbreviations ‘LKA’, ‘HN’, ‘A’ etc in the Jain hawala diaries case and about 17 more years when the Sahara-Birla diaries would be revealed. How the politicians would have loved if the latter diaries, too, had only initials and not names with designations. Still, they got lucky with the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissing the PIL!

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